Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pokemon Go...Away

Although not done for another week-and-a-bit, this sweaty August of 2016 has been quite a month.  It has left me exhausted.  So much has happened personally, professionally, domestically and internationally that I could have chosen a hundred or more topics of interest or concern to write about.  Yet I keep coming back to one extraordinary image that has lodged in my mind, being the one you see above.  It is a painting called "Control" by the controversial Polish 'political art satirist and philosopher,' Pawel Kuczynski, and because of it I must once again vent my spleen at the modern world.

Being one who deeply appreciates satire in all its forms, therefore in the art world obviously a fan of such as Banksy, I have been aware of and interested in Kuczynski's work for some time.  Yet although I love his painting style I cannot pretend to understand everything he does, but when his work is as direct as the painting above it can have quite an impact on me.

Because of my persistent vocal rallying against the effect that personal technologies - particularly smartphones, Androids and their ilk - are increasingly having on humankind, effectively turning us into a species of zombified slaves, I am often accused of being a luddite.  But I am not a luddite: I embrace and am amazed and deeply impressed by certain technologies - especially, for example, those aimed at improved health care.  Some of these things are brilliantly designed and, even if I have no desire to own one, I readily acknowledge their uses.

As I say, it is the effect that such as smartphones have had on human behaviour, and how we have allowed it to happen, that disturbs me.  Body language has completely changed, as owners of these things wander around cradling their precious devices in their palms, like Linus' blanket, thinking for all the world they look cool, important, and too 'busy' to interact in the 'real world,' with real people.  But they do not look cool - they look rather sad and pathetic in their reliance on these things to the extent they cannot bear to even put them in a pocket or bag.  And walking up the street, traversing a crosswalk, socializing, driving, the world - except Susan and I, it seems - is glued to its little screens, hypnotized by whatever crap it displays.

We are big fans of the show Parks and Recreation, and recently watched an episode in the 5th season called Sex Education, in which the character Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) takes the character Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) to a remote cabin to wean him off his Internet and device addiction.  It was brilliantly written, as always with this great show, but the truth is there are millions of people that are genuinely addicted to their devices to the degree that this global problem has spawned addiction clinics specifically to deal with it.  I don't know about you, but I find this astonishing.

Go ahead and Google the phrase 'internet and device addiction clinics.'  You will find such as the reStart Centre for Technology Sustainability, whose homepage bears the legend, Connect with life, not your device.  Then at you will find a directory of the best Inpatient Internet Addiction Rehab Centers, giving you a choice!  There's even a Wikipedia page for 'Digital Addict,' and so it goes on and on.  It is a part of modern life that is here to stay, and other than using this computer I type at for emails and work, I am delighted to possess the strength and utter lack of interest in all this crap to have not succumbed like so many millions have...

...which brings me back to Kuczynski's painting.  I have observed in bewildered horror at the sudden surging popularity of the 'augmented reality' 'game,' Pokémon Go.  Augmented reality...think about that.  "It gets people out of the house, into the fresh air, exploring their area," said one person I know who shall remain nameless, lest I embarrass him.  Really?  People need to find and capture fictitious, dumb creatures - that, I repeat, do not exist - in order to get into the open air, enjoying their community, nature, and a healthy lifestyle?  Well, I'll be damned.  

I read in equal parts amusement and despair at the imbecile in England who has quit his job to play Pokémon Go full-time.  Have fun, dude, while those of us who have no choice sweat and toil day in, day out in order to pay the bills.  And I read in horror at the deaths, car smashes, and other serious incidents that have occurred as people play this dumb game.

"Control," then, is a painting that for me not only brilliantly portrays the slave-like aspects of the Pokémon Go phenomenon, but is representative of addiction to any and all technology of this nature.  This is a very serious problem, one that is never likely to go away as programmers and app builders continue to devise ways of keeping the populace glued to their screens and hungry for whatever bullshit they are force-fed next.  ""Ooh, an app that replaces all heads in photographs with images of turnips!  Gimme!"

I will not be amongst the populace in this way, content to plough my curmudgeonly furrow against this shit until my time is up.  Truly, if I am the last person on Planet Earth not to own a device and get sucked into this rabbit hole, that will suit me just fine.